US communications group Viasat announced plans to buy British satellite communications firm Inmarsat in a $7.3 billion deal to bring together their space and Earth-based systems. 

The two companies announced on November 8, 2021 that they plan to combine their spectrum, satellite and terrestrial assets to create a global high-capacity hybrid space and terrestrial network.

“Together, we can advance broadband communications and create new hybrid space and terrestrial networks that drive greater performance, coverage, speed, reliability and value for customers,” Viasat executive Chairman Mark Dankberg said in a press release.

Inmarsat was founded over 40 years ago, back in 1979, by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to help ships stay in touch with shore. Today, it operates 14 geostationary satellites and its technology connects not only ships, but airlines, governments and other industrial customers. 

Viasat is a global communications company serving aviation, government and military customers, and has been expanding its satellite operations in recent years. 

“This advanced architecture will create a framework incorporating the most favorable characteristics of multi-band, multi-orbit satellites and terrestrial air-to-ground systems that can deliver higher speeds, more bandwidth, greater density of bandwidth at high demand locations like airport and shipping hubs and lower latency at lower cost than either company could provide alone,” Viasat said.

The two companies have a combined fleet of 19 satellites. A further 10 spacecraft are being built and due to be launched within the next three years. 

Viasat said its technologies will help to achieve greater value from Inmarsat’s L-band spectrum and existing space assets.

Viasat also said it plans to expand Inmarsat’s presence in the UK, especially in the UK space communications sector. Rick Baldridge, president and CEO of Viasat, highlighted in a blog post that Viasat’s second satellite in its ViaSat-3 fleet will be controlled from facilities in the UK.  

“The industrial logic is compelling and ensures that the U.K. has a strong and sustainable presence in the critical space sector for the long term,” commented Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat.

The transaction is expected to close in the second half of calendar year 2022, subject to regulatory and shareholder approvals.